Vautier scrambles to P3 in Barber qualifying

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier’s now gone two-for-two in Firestone Fast Six appearances. His second was done via the more unconventional route.

Vautier emerged disappointed in himself after missing out on the top six by nearly two full tenths of a second.

“Seventh is OK but I feel sorry for my team,” he said. “The car was able to advance and I did a mistake in a place that cost us a lot, and didn’t put the lap together and do the job. I could have just squeezed in there. My fault, I didn’t do the lap when it counted. It’s frustrating to miss the Fast Six for one position.”

Mere minutes later, Vautier turned into a traffic director in the paddock, pushing his team to get back out when informed they’d be promoted into the Fast Six after Takuma Sato’s blocking penalty.

“Right before the Fast Six started, I was looking at it, and I said, ‘Guys, I see my car in the top six, maybe we should bring it back to pit lane,’” said Vautier. “I have to give it to the guys. They brought the car back last minute and got it ready after the Fast Six started. It was a mix of emotions to be disappointed and then all of a sudden know I was in the Fast Six. I had to get back in it.”

In just two laps, Vautier had himself a third-place qualifying effort driving on pure determination and a well set up car.

“Yeah, I just tried to push very hard. My engineer made good changes on the car for the Fast Six and the tires were a bit more used. So it was a lot of fun honestly. It was so cool because the cars have so much grip. You can really push hard and give it all.”

After an exhaust issue sidelined his debut when running in the top five, Vautier seeks his first finish after his second straight excellent qualifying effort.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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